Last month, Susan Cain launched the Quiet Revolution, a hub for introverts the world over to share what it means to live and work as an introvert. It contains articles, profiles, diary entries, advice and comment, helping introverts achieve and live the best lives they can, to be true to themselves.
I remember reading Quiet, in 2013. I also read Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe, and I remember that ‘introvert’ and ‘introversion’ became more of a ‘buzzword’. It isn’t going away any time soon because we are only at the beginning of truly understanding and exploring what that means. In the broadest, psychological terms, it is someone who recharges with solitude, who gives energy in social interactions, and is left drained afterwards. Whereas extroverts gain energy from social interaction. It doesn’t mean that introverts are particularly anti-social, or that we don’t enjoy the company of others. We may even behave in outgoing ways, coming across as an extrovert.
It was an ‘eureka’ moment for me, for many reasons. I often felt a little messed-up, wondering why I felt drained after intensive social meetings, why sometimes people thought that it was better if I was louder (or more social), or wondered why I took longer to answer questions, needing time to think. The structure of our workplaces, schools, and social lives are often geared towards the extroverts amongst us – busy, requiring quick answers, group work, open plan or communal workspaces, bright lights, chatter, loud music, crowds.
At times I feel being deaf (I wrote a post about deafness and introversion here) is a double-bind in that social interaction tires me even further with lipreading with too much background noise and large groups. I gravitate towards one-to-one interaction, small groups and less busy environments. Crowds, after a while, make me long for solitude, to just relax, and to process the information of the day. It’s the same with signing crowds – this might have more to do with being amongst a language I’m not yet fully fluent in, though.
Also, if, like me, you are an HSP (highly sensitive person), who can often become over-stimulated by too much noise, action and information, it makes sense that we need doses of solitude to wind down and process things. However, the point is that this doesn’t mean that I dislike spending time with my friends, meeting interesting new people and sometimes braving the crowds in London. It just means that I am more conscious of how much of this I do, and that it is perfectly fine to say no, to suggest somewhere quieter to meet, and to leave a bit earlier if you become tired and irritable.
It doesn’t necessarily hold true that all introverts are bookworms, and want to spend their free-time watching things on Netflix (though both these things are true of me!). We may have the same hobbies and jobs as extroverts, and just approach things in a different way. Even if I was a consummate extrovert, I would still be a writer and still have a passion for reading. I take longer to think of answers to people’s questions, to contribute to a discussion, I need pauses and time to think clearly. I’m not an ‘on the spot’ kind of person. Conversation should have room for focused listening, as well as room for silence and considered responses. Too much of conversation is interruption: listening with a view to responding rather than just listening sensitively.
There is a balance to everything – I have extroverts in my life, and appreciate them. I don’t feel that just because you have a word for yourself – introvert, deaf, woman, geek, whatever – that you have to fit that word completely. There’s such a thing as a social introvert, and a quiet extrovert. Sometimes I crave noise, and bright colour and movement, other times I crave quiet, space, serenity. I like to go out into the world and people-watch, to have silly conversations with friends, and to laugh. I also like the lulls in conversation where the silence is comfortable, and it doesn’t matter that you’re not talking.
‘We know from myths and fairy tales that there are many different kinds of powers in this world. One child is given a light saber, another a wizard’s education. The trick is not to amass all the different kinds of power, but to use well the kind you’ve been granted.’ ~ Susan Cain – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.
I love the Quiet Revolution. It’s a beautiful website, a place of celebration, wisdom and inspiration. I hope that it builds and becomes stronger, and carries on considering what it means to be quiet in a world of noise.